July 19, 2010

From the Shore

When you live in a very cold climate zone, as I do, you know that there are many plants that won't survive, so are happy with the ones that thrive. But my plant envy was in full stride when I saw all the flowering blue and pink hydrangeas, too tender for Vermont, down on the New Jersey shore. They make such a beautiful display, looking grand and generous in their large masses. The lovely specimen above was photographed in my sister's garden, which included may other types of colored hydrangeas.

I was very happy to find some of the old fashioned honeysuckle, remembered from childhood, mentioned before in this post. What I hadn't remembered is the intense sweet scent of the flower; it's delightful to bury your nose in a group of them, and the bees agree: you can see one deep in a flower on the lower right.

I saw many plants on the shore that were unfamiliar. This vine, entwined within a privet hedge, had a spray of flowers with a very interesting growth pattern. The small cream-colored flower (I think it's a flower) has at its center a green 'button', which then enlarges into circular ribbed forms, which I assume are seed pods. I found the structure very engaging, even cheerful, like little dangling candies.

Of course I went to the beach, and what a treat it was to splash in the ocean. The beaches I visited had dark colored sand, which might come from all the mussel shells that cling to the jetties and are then crushed by the action of waves. It's a minor treasure hunt to sift the sand and find small particles of rock and shell that are part of it.

I couldn't resist including the following image, of a surfer's sandals left waiting on a wall, with seagulls watching along the water's edge, a cliched/iconic image of the sea, and summer.


  1. How lovely Altoon ...
    these posts on your stay at this lovely part of the world full of both reminiscences and noticing small details from the here and now are reminding me I am now ready for a little break..but where to?
    After a hugely busy time I am slowing for a bit.
    Hope you are having a wonderful time!

  2. Hi Altoon -- You found Pokeberries! They get so dark -- the children's ink and face paint.

  3. hi Sophie, a little break was a great pleasure, especially with the memories; I hope you find a nice spot for yours.

    Susan, thanks for the i.d. I looked up the pokeweeds and they're such an interesting plant: salads and dyes and poison, with a long history of different uses. I so appreciate your naturalist's eye.

  4. You probably learned all about this already, but I had to go look it up too. Here's a quote from Edible Wild Plants of Eastern North America, by Fernald and Kinsey (yes, that Dr. Kinsey): "The purple juice has in the past been guilty of coloring other things than frosting and candy. Thus, in 1783 Bryant wrote: 'The Portugueze had formerly a trick of mixing the juice of the berries with their red wines, in order to give them a deeper colour; but as it was found to debase the flavour, the matter was represented to his Portugueze Majesty, who ordered all the stems to be cut down yearly before they produced flowers, thereby to prevent any further adulteration' " (1943). Interesting plant!

  5. Really enjoyed these shore posts. My best friend from college was from N.J. and I have wonderful memories of going to the Jersey shore with her family. Sun, sand and fabulous food!

    One of my sisters lives in PA and everyone has massive blue hydrangeas so I know how you feel. The folks there can grow Japanese maples so well that I have seen them trimmed a la topiary, if you can imagine that.

  6. I wouldn't depricate the beach image. It has the rich visual interplay and intelligent organization of all your work. In fact, I challenge you to make an uninformed image! Just look at how Brueghelesque it is to use the small foreground bits to enlarge the gulls, then take us back to the lone fuzzy bird in the sky, confuse the forms of the sandals with the distant rip-rap; section (golden?) the sky/earth, use the dark foreground wall as repoussoir... but with shadow detail, simplify the large forms and complexify within themselves, and on and on. I hear the sound of a gameshow buzzer nullifying the cliché!

  7. Reading your comments on honeysuckle reminded me of the passage on same in Marilynne Robinson's GILEAD, which I was just reading again yesterday. The beckoning scent of honeysuckle and the culturally shared childhood behaviors surrounding it are as memorable as childhood shore stays. These are enduring sun-filled remembrances of safe, gloriously pleasurable, summers past -- would that all children and former children had such magical beginnings.

  8. Susan, thanks for the fascinating additional info on pokeberries; who could have imagined!

    Linda, it's nice knowing someone else suffers from hydrangea envy. And I did see a small, finely cut leafed, Japanese maple trimmed into a small round ball. It was just beautiful, and I kept stroking it.

    Okay Kim, I give up; it's not a cliche. I just thought all the elements were just too too 'what is expected' and wasn't thinking of the composition.

    twocorbies, oh, I loved Gilead, and am vaguely remembering relating to the honeysuckle passage. I do feel that those of us who had such wonderful summers are very lucky indeed.